Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
24 August 2011

Labour’s dependence on the unions continues

The trade unions accounted for 86 per cent of all donations to the party in the second quarter of th

By George Eaton

The latest party funding figures have just been released and the most notable thing, as usual, is Labour’s remarkable dependence on the trade unions. In quarter two, the party received £3,093,094 in donations, £2,651,589 or 85.7 per cent of which came from the unions. Unite, the country’s biggest union, was alone responsible for 24.8 per cent (£765,628) of all donations. Of the £5.9m the Labour Party has received across both quarters this year, £5.2m or 88 per cent came from the unions.

I’m a strong supporter of the trade union link, but it’s unhealthy for a progressive party to be so dependent on a few sources of income. As Peter Mandelson argued recently, Labour must “revolutionise its funding sources”. Back in 1994, when Tony Blair became Labour leader, trade unions accounted for just a third of the party’s annual income. In 2010, they accounted for more than 60 per cent.

There is, of course, no comparison between the unions and the big-money donors the Tories rely on. Donations from Unite, for instance, are taken from the union’s political fund, to which 1,291,408 members contribute voluntarily. But this is no excuse for complacency. As I previously noted, the Tories and the Lib Dems are advancing plans to impose a cap of £50,000 on political donations. While the limit would have deprived Labour of 85 per cent of its income since 2005, the Tories would have forfeited just 50 per cent of their income. With this in mind, Ed Miliband must widen the party’s funding base as a matter of urgency.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Content from our partners
Why competition is the key to customer satisfaction
High streets remain vitally important to local communities
The future of gas